UN agencies vow to implement millennium development report

A host of specialized United Nations agencies today rallied behind a new strategy report for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of slashing the world’s ills by 2015, pledging their specific expertise in sectors ranging from feeding the hungry to treating the sick to empowering the rural poor.“In a world that has abundant resources and can produce sufficient food to feed everybody, the extent of hunger is not only a moral outrage but a manifestation of the world community’s collective failure to put in place policies and programmes with long-term vision,” the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said in a joint statement.“We believe that there is no choice but to meet the goals,” the statement issued by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, WFP Executive Director James Morris and IFAD President Lennart Båge said of the Millennium Project report – “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals” – launched yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York with a call for rich countries to double their investments in poor nations.The three Rome-based agencies advocated a twin-track strategy to combat hunger and poverty by investing in improved infrastructure, sound natural resource management and increased access to jobs while providing direct, sustained and well-targeted assistance to put food into hungry mouths, prevent disease, send children to school and rebuild infrastructure shattered by armed conflicts.Despite concern that many countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, are falling behind in attempts to achieve the MDGs, the three reconfirmed their belief that the targets could be reached if both the developing and developed world take immediate action.The MDGs, drawn up at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, seek among other targets to halve extreme poverty and malnutrition, slash infant and maternal mortality, and boost access to health care and education, all by 2015.More than 1 billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – live in extreme poverty, lacking the safe water, proper nutrition, basic health care and social services needed to survive. Almost 11 million children die each year, 6 million of them under the age of five from preventable diseases, 500,000 thousand women do not survive pregnancy or childbirth, and there are presently 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS.The World Health Organization (WHO) said the report provided detailed recommendations on how the world must immediately and massively increase investment in health programmes to achieve the MDGs, including programmes to deliver AIDS treatment, improve maternal and child health, control and treat tuberculosis and malaria, and make more medicines affordable.“We have the means to achieve those goals. We have the technology. What we need are the resources and the political will,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said. “We cannot wait any longer to do what we have promised to achieve in the coming decade.”For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the report’s proposals, including bed nets to fight malaria, vaccinations to fight infectious disease, wells for safe drinking water and antiretroviral therapies to fight AIDS, if implemented on a wide scale, could make a measurable difference in the lives of children.“The MDGs are all about investing in children, and this report is fundamental to the global effort to create a world that is fit for children,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. “We could not support it more strongly.”And the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) noted the report’s focus on ensuring universal access to reproductive health as critical to attaining poverty reduction and development goals and stressed the urgency in ending discrimination against women.“The 20th century was known for ending political apartheid,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said. “Since this report says our generation has a chance to halve extreme poverty, let us all – developing and developed nations – seize this one moment in time to do so by also freeing women from all forms of discrimination, bias and violence.“In doing so, we will make our generation and the 21st century remembered in history for ending gender apartheid. I pledge UNFPA’s commitment to this cause.”The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) noted that the report finds that environmental sustainability is a critical foundation for ending poverty. “The environment has for too long been the poor relation to economic growth,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. “This very welcome report makes it clear that real, long-lasting and secure development can only be achieved if the environment is put at the centre of decision-making.”

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